Obama’s CBC Comments Latest ‘Insult’ to Black America

Mandate on November elections stokes memories of presidential failures on key issues, like HBCU preservation.

I’ve been trying to make it go away, but it keeps playing in my head (and on the news channels) like a bad record: the sound of President Obama’s voice telling attendees of the annual Congressional Black Caucus gala he will consider it a personal insult if Black America does not turn out to vote for Hillary Clinton.

We can skip the sanctimonious “don’t tell me how to vote” part here. The history of the democratic party and its front-running candidates taking black voters for granted is endless. And, in this 2016 election cycle, when the only other option seems to be a racist, xenophobic, homophobic, everyone else-phobic bigot, the party has continued to rest on the idea that Hillary Clinton can count on black voters. (Whether or not the assumption is correct is for others to debate.)

The part with which I take exception is the part where President Obama seems to be again waving his finger at the black community, almost as if the community owes him their support. This is the same president who repeatedly snubbed the Congressional Black Caucus events, wholly ignored the voices from the nation’s historically Black college and universities — even those on his cherry-picked board of advisers — and has remained largely silent on issues affecting the quality of life for black people.

That the president can claim a “personal insult” by black voters’ independent choices seems quite ironic when the same president has seemed to ignore the faction of the population which has been so supportive of him, no matter what.

In fact, it seems the only time the president acknowledges Black America at all is during an election year.

The nation’s first black president has failed to address racism, condemn racists, attempt to rectify discriminatory policies that have kept Black people in this country at a disadvantage, and has even implemented policies that have nearly crippled the schools whose mission it is to provide an education for Black students who may not be welcomed on other campuses.

As head of the executive branch, he has failed to come out strongly against the actions of some police officers (who also fall under the executive branch) at whose hands several Black men and women have been slain in recent years.

(In the words of my dear friend, Crystal A. deGregory, PhD on Facebook: “Two nights ago, President Obama told Black America how to vote. Let’s see if today is the day he’ll tell his police how to police. Or nah.”)

Instead of condemning the actions of these officers and implementing policies to reinforce proper protocol, promote cultural sensitivity training and work towards a solution, he has remained largely mum, except to scold those who are seemingly being targeted by the officers. He defended Colin Kaepernick’s right to protest, but stopped short of offering his support or sympathy for the conditions that led to that protest.

The Ivy League-educated leader of the free world has repeatedly insulted members of the HBCU community and talked down to those in the Black community.

The 4.9% national unemployment rate is the lowest of any point since the start of the recession, yet there remains a discrepancy when it comes to African-American unemployment, which hovers at 8.1%. For all of the gains African-Americans have made since the 1960s, there has been a definitive resegregation of American schools and a regression to Civil Rights-era policies that seek to bar Black citizens from voting; unless, I suppose, they are voting for Hillary Clinton?

To be clear, President Obama cannot be blamed for the condition of Black people in this country. But from the president who has been a champion for the LGBT community and community colleges, his silence and definitive lack of support for the African-American (and, as a result, HBCU) community is deafening.

Many know that I am conflicted on what President Obama means to this country, and Black people in particular. As the mother of two young children who know no other world than one in which a Black man is president of the United States, his presidency and status as a cultural icon is immeasureably important. The wholesome family image, the scandal-free reign, the iconic photographs, the incredibly melodic oratory of his speeches — the example that he has set for my children is irreplaceable.

But on policy, on advocacy, on serving as the president of ALL citizens of this country, many know I believe he has fallen short to the population that offered him unconditional love and support and to whom his election meant the most.

And while I’ve generally remained publicly silent, I find the president’s statements at the CBC gala this weekend — just as previous statements at Morehouse College, in Baton Rouge in front of Southern University constiuents, and just as his notable absence at every convening of the Board of Advisers on Historically Black Colleges and Universities — to be insulting.

President Obama and the rest of the democratic party cannot continue to expect the Black community to swing elections in their favor if they continue to ignore its concerns for the rest of his administration.

The solidification of your legacy, Mr. President, was your responsibility. Not ours.